E-cigarettes: Should they be regulated the same as the real thing?

AUSTIN, MN – Over the years, we’ve come to accept restrictions on smoking in public places, but there are not the same restrictions on the newest form of smoking: e-cigarettes.

Instead of smoke, a user exhales vapor, so there might not be the same concerns about second-hand smoke, but there are questions about if and how the e-cigs should be regulated.

That’s what leaders in Austin are talking about this week.

There are people in the Austin community who think e-cigarettes should be treated the same as regular cigarettes considering they do give off vapor and contain nicotine.

Monday night’s council meeting was quite the back and forth argument as to whether e-cigarettes will be allowed in public places.

The ordinance would call for a one year suspension of the electronic cigarettes in all places where smoking is prohibited by the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act. Those in favor of the year suspension want that in place so they can learn more about the effects of e-cigs.

After a high school counselor and health officials gave their arguments, city council members voiced their own opinions. The debate left everyone wondering which way the council was going to sway.

“What we’re looking at right now for factual information from healthcare professionals is that it’s not a good idea and I don’t want it next to me, I don’t want to my grandchildren, I don’t want it next to anybody,” says council member Janet Anderson.

“We should be putting pressure on the legislation, on the food and drug administration where it belongs. Not in the city of Austin,” argued council member Judy Enright.

The ordinance passed four-to-three in the first vote. The next step was to adopt and publish, which failed. So that means nothing really changes tonight but the issue will come back up at the April 7th meeting.

The city council also voted on a very similar ordinance, only it concerned the use of hookahs or similar devices in public places.

The vote required a unanimous decision – and did not pass.

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